First American Dream

The first day of winter will always have a special connotation for me; it marks my arrival in the US.

On that day, right after landing in San Francisco, my husband took me on a very late tour across Palo Alto, our new address in America, to see the Christmas decorations.

He asked me if what I saw looked like what I had expected.

Since I had never set foot in California, I had no real expectations, and although I immediately fell under the charm of the deserted but brightly decorated streets I wasn’t sure how I would like the small, sleepy town in the morning.

While we drove, our eleven months old daughter fell asleep in the backseat.

Inside me her sister-to-be moved, and the thought that she would in five months open her eyes on a world I knew almost nothing about filled me with an equal mix of exhilaration and anxiety.

This baby had no idea of her new surroundings and that six thousands miles separated her parents and sister from their native land. I wondered if she would be different because of this important shift. During the much longer than expected flight – delays due to bad weather – she hadn’t moved at all. The fleeting but disturbing thought that she might be in danger because of the disruption in her mother’s life had vanished now that she rolled inside me like a small, soft wave. Yet I wondered if because she would be an American citizen, she would be a different child from the one she would have been had I stayed in Paris.

Silly thoughts. But being uprooted brings strange, crazy thoughts to the mind.

Later, my husband parked in a short driveway leading to the house where we would live. I had only seen a few pictures and although I had immediately envisioned having lunch in the lovely backyard – a real treat for a Parisian – I couldn’t imagine much more of our future life in this foreign setting.

There were shutters flanking the windows of the low bungalow, but unlike the French that open and close and serve many purposes the American shutters were strictly decorative.

To open the window I had to slide and not pull and screens forbade the complete opening so I couldn’t lean outside like I used to do in France.

The French sheets and pillowcases I had packed were too small for the queen bed, standing in a room my husband said was a master bedroom.

No metro rumbled underground and the streets were so quiet in comparison to Paris that I couldn’t fall asleep.

The baby kept shifting inside me. Her big sister cried. I tiptoed to her bed. She slept as peacefully as her father.

Maybe, I thought, she’s dreaming.

I went back to bed and tried to stop thinking of what might happen in this new country.

I’ll cross that bridge, I thought.

And I finally fell asleep.

Dreaming of tomorrow.


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